Lucky 13th day again! Time to report my stats of query letter rejection. For those of you who are new, every month I report how many query letters I've rejected for that month, and offer a few words of advice/observations for the month.
Perhaps a better number to look at is how many partial manuscripts I've rejected, and how many I've requested. This number shows you how many people's manuscripts aren't ready when they query (for a number of reasons, but that's an entirely separate post--and book). This month, I also saw a huge difference in my numbers. 95% of partials were rejected, which means I only requested additional pages from 5%.
Discouraged? The beauty of this business is that there is always room to learn, and there are always people wanting to teach. As an agent, I get discouraged sometimes too, always wanting to find that ms that I will dream about, can't stop talking about. Remember all the books you probably read in a year; how many of those books will you talk about nonstop weeks after reading? That's what I'm looking for--that ms I'll LOVE.
Don't think the query business will pan out for you? It can, if you keep at it and learn from failure. I signed one author this month who I found just that way--through queries. I signed another this month, and I found her--or she found me--at the San Fransisco conference. So, to up your odds, query and attend conferences. You'll learn a lot both ways.
So now, things I've thought about/ learned/ realized this month:
My eyes sort of glaze over when I see "vampires" in the query. I think it's dried up in the YA world, but I'll consider it for adult Paranormal or Urban Fantasy. Make it original. Make it sparkle (but not in an Edward Cullen's fairy sort of way).
That said, don't start your query telling me how different or awesome or how sick I am of seeing vampire queries. Present your query. It should speak for itself.(This goes for everything else. You don't need to spell out why your book is needed in today's climate. We're agents--it's our jobs to know these things.)
Be clear if the book you are querying is self published already. In which case, the only thing we care about are numbers, no matter how awesome your query is. Because that's all publishers care about. General rule of thumb, if book sales aren't at least 5,000 in the first 6 months, neither agents nor publishers will look at it. And if it's older than 6 months (without spectacular sales), it's old news. (Very general rule of thumb, and it varies depending on who you talk to.)
Sign your name, not just your initials. It's all well and good if you want the name displayed on your book to be your initials (it works, just look at JK Rowling), but when signing your query letter, please use your first name. I like to know who to address it to. I'd feel awkward composing an email as "Dear JK."
I seem to be getting a lot of queries for superhero novels lately. Whatever the reason for the sudden influx, and whatever the age group, I don't represent superhero novels. To me, they belong in movies, comic books, and graphic novels. Leave the novels to the sparkly vampires. (Not saying it won't pan out for you, there are people out there who will like it--love it, sign it, buy it, give you lots of money for it--you'd just really, really, really have to sell me on it.)
I'd like to know a little about you, gentle readers. On this Lucky 13th day, what good things have happened to you this month? This can range from selling a book, getting represented, getting a partial requested, attending a cool workshop, finishing a page, getting inspiration from a walk--anything really.